| 10.6°C Belfast

Fionola Meredith

Forget tacky Valentine's Day, same-sex wedding shows what power of love is all about

Fionola Meredith

Sharni and Robyn's marriage is a triumph against the odds, says Fionola Meredith


Robyn Peoples (left) and Sharni Edwards share a kiss after their wedding in Carrickfergus

Robyn Peoples (left) and Sharni Edwards share a kiss after their wedding in Carrickfergus

Getty Images

Robyn Peoples (left) and Sharni Edwards share a kiss after their wedding in Carrickfergus

Well, the sky didn't fall in, did it? When Robyn Peoples and Sharni Edwards opened a new chapter in the history of Northern Ireland by getting married to each other this week I didn't notice any lightning bolts or sinister seismic rumbles. Civilization appears to be intact. The institution of marriage, far from crumbling, as fear-mongering opponents of same-sex unions threatened, has survived.

Well, of course it has. Marriage is as tough and durable as a pair of old boots. The only difference is that now, here in Northern Ireland, two women or two men can pledge their lives to one another, in sickness and in health, for better or for worse.

"I do.": There's no bigger commitment, no deeper expression of trust, no greater affirmation of partnership.

Only the most bitter, joyless and hard-hearted of people could fail to smile at the sight of these two young women, radiant in their white wedding dresses, sharing a tender kiss.

Like countless couples before them they have bravely set out on one of the most complex, challenging and deeply sustaining adventures that life has to offer.

What pinch-lipped prude would refuse to wish them well? Who would deny their union every joy, every blessing?

After the wedding Robyn Edwards-Peoples, as she is now known, said: "For Northern Ireland we need to be the face of the people to show everyone it's okay. It's just to show that we are equal to a man and a woman, it's no different. Our love is the exact same, and this means everything to us."

Today is Valentine's Day, the biggest celebration of heterosexual love on the planet. In reality it's a tacky, innuendo-ridden commercial opportunity for big companies to flog plastic tat, fake-fur hearts and over-priced chocolates. Restaurants are bunged full of couples obediently paying well over the odds just because this is the day that society expects them to do it.

Last year Marks and Spencer introduced its 'Love Sausage', two bacon-wrapped cylinders of processed pork grotesquely contorted into the shape of a heart.

Romantic, eh? Now they've come up with their 'Love Cue' - individually-wrapped heart-shaped cucumbers to put in your Valentine's day gin and tonic or, for stupid people who have nothing better to do, to titter and nudge-nudge about on social media. I fear it's inevitable that M&S will do something coyly suggestive with an aubergine next year.

Of course there's the usual selection of deeply original red roses or - far worse - roses that have been dyed a lurid shade of purple or blue and liberally sprinkled with glitter, thus turning a thing of natural beauty into something ugly, nasty and crude.

And don't get me started on the extra-weird Valentine's stuff like beef jerky edible underwear. Yes, it really is a thing, I'm sorry to say. No doubt vegan options are available.

Or how about his and hers tongue scrapers, presumably so you can stand at the bathroom mirror together, simultaneously removing dead bacteria from your respective tongues. Or each other's, I guess, arms entwined. Could it get any more gross?

I know, I know, it's all supposed to be fun, a cheeky joke, a bit of a laugh. But love is too important to be used as an excuse to sell such trite and trivial rubbish. It's the same with those absurdly over-the-top, ultra-expensive weddings which are all about competitive preening, swaggering and showing off in front of your friends and family.

As the author Andrew O'Hagan once asked: "What has the spending of cash got to do with the celebration of two people's love?"

That's why we should all raise a glass to the joining in matrimony of Sharni Edwards and Robyn Peoples. It really was a celebration, against all the odds: institutional homophobia, religious prejudice, the shameless flouting of democratic process at Stormont. Here, right before us, are two people who have fought for the right to wed the person that means everything to them, just as heterosexual couples have done for centuries. Last year, last month, last week, Sharni and Robyn couldn't do this. This week they can, and they did.

I hope that the beautiful image of Robyn and Sharni sharing a kiss will touch many people's hearts, including those who have resisted and rejected the very idea of gay marriage.

It shows, better than any words can do, that they are no different from any other couple.

This is an important victory for equality, but it's also a victory for the most precious, life-affirming thing of all - true love.

Please log in or register with belfasttelegraph.co.uk for free access to this article.

Already have an account?

Belfast Telegraph